In Defense of Valentine's Day and All the Other 'Made-Up Hallmark' Holidays

I love Valentine’s Day! What’s more, I also love Mother’s Day and Father’s Day and any other holiday that Hallmark or anyone else wants to invent. All that love for “made-up” holidays exists in my heart because I love having fun. And I want everyone else to enjoy having fun, too. Oddly, though, some people seemingly want everyone else to know how much of a Scrooge-ish curmudgeon they are. Using social media as a kill-joy bulletin board, they smugly preen as they scoff at the sentimental saps who get sucked into celebrating Valentine’s Day. To those people, I want to say a thing or two. Hopefully, they’ll receive my words in the spirit they are intended: with love and the desire to see them have more fun.

Look, I understand that most of these holidays come with Hallmark’s hand in your back pocket. But, here’s the thing: it doesn’t have to be that way. None of us are beholden to Hallmark or any other retailer; we can celebrate these fun holidays on our own terms. It’s easy to remove Hallmark’s hand from your back pocket. Frankly, I’m willing to bet that most women (and men) would prefer something other than a Valentine’s Day-themed trinket. Likewise, the ways in which these holidays take shape in your life should be determined by you and your loved one, and not by a marketing team sitting in a conference room high over Manhattan’s streets. My wife and I worked this out years ago.

I love date nights with my wife. While not needing “made-up” holidays to enjoy having a date night, my wife and I are happy to use Valentine’s Day or National Pie Day or fill-in-the-blank-holiday as an excuse to abandon the kids and spend some time together. Over the years, though, our holiday-themed date nights have evolved.

As newlyweds living below the poverty line, we couldn’t have afforded Hallmark’s overpriced cards even if we had wanted to. We definitely couldn’t afford expensive meals at high-end restaurants. In fact, we couldn’t even afford meals at “low-end” restaurants. We could afford each other’s company, though. Thankfully, we happen to enjoy each other’s company more than we enjoy cheesy gifts or even non-cheesy gifts and more than we enjoy a nice dinner. We have fun when we’re together.

To that end, as poor newlyweds, we would spend “made-up” holidays taking walks, hanging out together, and often creating mementos to commemorate the holiday in ways that are special to us. We would splurge and buy egg rolls to go with our dinner of ramen noodles. And made-up holidays made it much easier to splurge, but probably not for the reason you think.

Whether people like it or not, “made-up” holidays are on the calendar. During the years when we had to watch every penny, holidays on the calendar helped us plan and budget special events. Sure, we could’ve saved up and splurged on egg rolls on a day not artificially tagged as a holiday. But having an excuse and a date to circle made it easier. Now, though, our finances afford us the privilege of splurging on more than Walmart brand egg rolls.

One of the ways we now celebrate “made-up” holidays on our terms is by dictating the day. For example, this year my wife and I have made reservations at an Italian restaurant that we’ve never been to before but that has excellent Yelp reviews. But our reservations are not for Valentine’s Day. On February 14, we will be cooking our kids’ favorite meal, reading the handmade cards our son and daughter give us, and, in turn, giving them candy. Not necessarily Valentine’s Day candy, mind you, but candy that they like. We’ll laugh while we enjoy spending time together as a family. And, honestly, the evening of February 14 will not be that different from many of our other evenings together as a family.

Minus the candy we’ll give them for Valentine’s Day, our evenings are usually filled with fun, favorite foods, and even handmade cards or pictures painted by our kids. However, since February 14 has been labeled as a “special” day, Valentine’s Day moments will drill themselves deeper into our children’s memories. The fun we have during the “made-up” holidays is similar to the fun we have on other days, except it will be a memory that serves as a placeholder for all of our family’s fun when our kids are adults.

As far as that Italian dinner, my wife and I will use Valentine’s Day as an excuse even though we won’t actually be enjoying that dinner on February 14. Honestly, we technically don’t need an excuse and will most likely enjoy another date night within the next week or two. But by steering into the “made-up” Hallmark holiday spirit, we get to add an extra layer of fun to what will already be a fun evening together.

If you don’t want to celebrate Valentine’s Day, then don’t. But have fun with your loved one anyway. And having fun together while enjoying each other’s company is something that all couples should desire, no matter their thoughts about “made-up” Hallmark holidays.